INDIANAPOLIS – Here are the facts that we know regarding Jason Witten and his future with the Cowboys.
- Witten is an unrestricted free agent on March 18 if a new deal isn't reached before then with the Cowboys.
- The future Hall of Famer says he wants to play football and, of course, wants to be with the Dallas Cowboys.
- Coach Mike McCarthy said he sat down with Witten and talked about his options.
- Owner Jerry Jones said he thinks Witten can still play and contribute, and doesn't want him to play for another team.
OK, so that's what we know right now. We don't exactly know what was said in that conversation between McCarthy and Witten. And clearly, that might be what the holdup is here and the reason no one is saying one way or another what's going to happen.
If you read between the lines, it appears as if the Cowboys have informed Witten that he would likely be more of a backup tight end, and now that's something that he would have to accept.
Again, that hasn't been said exactly, but when asked on Thursday why there isn't more clarity to this situation, Jones said the ball is in Witten's court after his talk with McCarthy.
"Generally, I want it to work with Mike – not Mike being the holdup. … I don't want to say it that way," Jones said. "He does, too. I'd say Jason feels like the holdup is one way or another Jason being comfortable with the fit. Jason being comfortable with the fit."
Jones then confirmed by "fit" he means his role, and that's probably meaning more of a backup to Blake Jarwin, who is a restricted free agent that will likely return.
But is there a role for Witten? Jones said on Thursday he could see Witten playing well in his 17th season.
"I do think he can play," Jones said. "As I sit here right now I think he can make a real contribution to the Cowboys. I would hope that he would not ever be anything but a Cowboy. It's meaningful."
Witten issued a similar message last week at The Star.
"I'll always be a Dallas Cowboy," Witten said, adding that he expected a decision to be made earlier than this. "It's taken a little longer that I had hoped for, but obviously with so many changes inside the building [we're] trying to work through that."
Speaking on Wednesday this week from the combine, McCarthy was rather vague about his meeting with Witten.
"Jason, we had a chance to sit down at length and talk about a number of things that he's thinking about," McCarthy said. "Those decisions and how we move forward, we'll see how it shakes out."
Witten had 63 catches for 529 yards and four touchdowns last year, a season removed from his retirement in 2018 that had him in the Monday Night Football booth. In 2019, Witten was one of just four tight ends in the NFL to start all 16 games, but he ranked 14th in receiving yards and eighth in catches.
The 11-time Pro Bowler is the Cowboys' all-time leader in catches (1,215) and receiving yards (12,977) and is second in touchdown catches (72), just one behind Dez Bryant.